"Trials of Patricia Isasa"
Kristin Norderval, Naomi Wallace og Bibbi Moslet i samtale med infoavdelingen på Drh etter workshopuke på Dramatikkens hus 3.- 7. desember 2012. (Siden Wallace ikke snakker norsk foregikk samtalen på engelsk)
During the workshop week they were developing the libretto for a new opera based in part on the real life story of Argentine architect and human rights activist Patricia Isasa.
Trine: What do you think opera can do to this special story about Patricia Isasa?
Bibbi: When Kristin presented the project for me the first time, it was already clear that she wanted this dramatic story to find itself in an operatic form. What we´ve done this week and the previous workshop week is to develop this story from the very bottom, with a writer and a composer who both have been necessary for the development of the story and where the story has been asking for both text and music. Sometimes the text has been in the foreground and sometimes the music has expressed something the text can´t express. So it is almost been a ping-pong match between the two artists which has created the result so far. The material is on its way towards an opera simply because they have used the tools of text and music to serve the concept of the story. The text without the music could have been developed on its own, a different kind of music could have told us about emotions and experiences, but Kristin´s firm belief that this story needed an opera to be told, has instigated the creative purpose that is now materializing itself into an exciting artistic combination.
Kristin: My primary identity is as a musician and a singer, and that includes being a composer, but voice to me has its own language - for humans it´s so primal. I feel it can give access to emotions we don´t have in words, so it´s a different kind of language than the words/and the musical iteration. Live theatre and live concerts give a kind of presence also that you don´t get going to the movies. There´s a real human being there singing, there´s a real human being there with their body on stage, and to have that direct connection to the audience is really important. The fact that in our time people are so used to the movies, and that has become the expression of realism, even though it´s not real either, but
that´s the expectation. We can´t do that in opera. Opera used to be somehow seen as en expression of realism, even the term varissmo was realism in 1900th century opera. But now we can take advantage of a different type of language. Naomi´s done an amazing job doing this dream language, time travel, coming in and out, things that are morphing, it’s really effective for a musical live expression of this story. And mostly I would like to have a visceral response from people. I want to go for a connection with the characters, some kind of physical response that could be me or that could be my brother you know, so that it´s connected to us here right now.
Naomi: I was just thinking as Kristin was talking that it may seem strange that the three of us whom none is Argentinian would be wanting to create this opera about an Argentinian woman who was kidnapped when she was sixteen, and she was tortured, and who later throughout her life with a lot of hard work and research and working with others, was able to bring her perpetrators to court. For myself personally I feel that this is also my story, as an American who pays taxes. The United States bankrolled the junta at the time; not only paid for the weapons that they used, but also trained the people who tortured. So I think it´s important to uncover those connections, not create them, they already exist. I think as an artist it´s always fascinating and important to me to find out how I go into a story, where is my part of it. I remember growing up – being close to Patricia´s age in the US, just living my life, dancing on trucks and having my friends, not being aware that there were young women and men my age who had a very different reality, but it was connected to what I had. What they didn´t have, I had. I have always written songs into my theatre, but this is the first time I have written a libretto, and I´m really liking it, and I´m liking working with my colleagues. It seems somehow, strangely from the start, even if I may say so, we´re not able to articulate what we needed it to be, we had a feeling about it, and I never felt that we were on different roads waving to each other. So that´s a blessing, because that often doesn´t happen, sometimes you end up really at odds with each other. So that´s great. I grew up thinking as a poet, I was first a poet, that I liked to work alone, and that I didn´t want anybody to bother me, but I discovered that actually was a myth about how I worked and grew as an artist, and that I really like collaborating and that´s why I moved into theatre. I´m really liking this and I feel that it is an important story full of sadness but also joy and humor, and that it very much touches on the continuing disappearance of people in the world today in different areas of the world. Patricia´s story is not over, as she says her story is the story of many people today. Hopefully it will be both enlightening, educating and hopeful.
Trine: How has this week been for you?
Kristin: Fantastic, in a nutshell. It´s been necessary and just a blessing to be able to come and work intensively. To have it over two time periods, because the first part was just discovering what we wanted to do with it and how could we start. This was in May. Naomi gave me great material to go away and work with and I needed all that time because the composing time is so different than the writing of words time. It just takes so much longer. I needed this big chunk of time to work with a little bit, and I came back and you heard what I came back with, and now I got so much more, and I´ll need a long time to work with that.
Naomi: Here we have the script we came with, and here is the new one, which is so much shorter and clearer and better – we all think. It´s been great to do that work in just a few days. Our dramaturg read it over last night and said how much better it was working. Personally I love it here, and I hope we can come back. It´s very welcoming. To me, the atmosphere and the building – I need to feel safe and welcome, and you all have done both those things. Just to feel free to take risk – if the environment is not one that is hospitable and welcoming, somehow I think unconsciously it restricts being free. Not to mention the warm room, the fruit and the good coffee! I know a lot of people may not like me saying this but a building surrounded by women is great. It´s been really wonderful and taken us to the next stage.
Bibbi: I´ll catch on to that. I think it´s important to understand that this kind of development process that we´ve just only started, is a very necessary process in order to be able to do this kind of work that Kristin and Naomi now are on their way towards. There are a lot of stages coming - of meeting, working together, separating. Doing things on their own or perhaps sending each other a note now and then. But to be able to come back again and having an intense, and almost new period every time is what makes it grow. Sooner or later you have to consider what´s going to happen on the stage, which is a third process which is coming. This is also a process you do in this house, bringing in directors. I´m not saying that this should be at this point at all, but it is necessary to understand that this is something that a work like this eventually will need. To think about how it should be done on a stage. It is a step by step development and the fact that Dramatikkens hus is giving this opportunity to artists is a very necessary development in the course of new things (writing for stage) in Norway. If you can manage to take on more of that kind of projects that are also linked up to music theatre, it will be wonderful for the music theatre tradition.
Kristin: It doesn´t really exist anywhere else in Norway. Ideally we´d be sitting in the same city and meeting at least once a week or more. We would work out things continually. We can do a lot over skype or e-mail in these next phases of revision, but nothing can substitute meeting in person.
Bibbi: My experience is that when a composer has come to a certain stage in the composing there will be places, even though one has agreed that this is absolutely how the libretto has to be, there will be small changes, and then just to be able to contact and say; can I do this? It has happened to me a couple of times where the composer calls and questions “do I want that”, “should it be the other way around?” But then of course you realize that the music in itself is such a carrying element that sometimes the text will have to change so the libretto isn´t finished until the opera is finished.
Naomi: it´s also been great to have the piano here. This week we wrote a new song which was an important part that we wanted in the piece but it wasn´t working. We rewrote it and restructured where it would be and Kristin was able to begin to explore some tunes. It´s so great to be able to work like that. We call it our ‘show and tell’. Bibbi and I would sit and Kristin would show us little pieces that she´s thinking about and exploring. You can´t do that on the phone and e-mail.
Siv: Maybe that´s what theatre and opera is all about; the magic happens in the room, in the experience together.
Kristin: It´s very hands on.
Bibbi: That only happens when you do know that you agree on an actual concept of what is going to happen. That´s what´s been good about meeting Kristin and Naomi, feeling the chemistry.
Kristin: It´s really funny because we´ve been thinking about the same things. One morning Naomi sent me an article by Noam Chomsky that she said I should read, and I replied:
I´ve already pasted it on facebook!
Naomi: One last thing I wanted to say was that I´m very grateful to Kristin for bringing Bibbi in as our dramaturg. She´s been very clear right from the start that we had to know what we were writing about, what the universe was going to be, plotting it out and sometimes reminding each of us; “Naomi, that´s not your part, that´s for Kristin.” Or vice versa, or this part is for both of you. That guide has been very critical since part of this is new for both of us. It´s been wonderful to have a guide one can trust, listen to, occasionally argue with. But who can step back and see things that we perhaps can´t about working together, so that´s been really wonderful.Publisert: 14.12.12